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Moldova - GEOGRAPHY
Located in southeastern Europe, Moldova is bordered on the west by Romania and on the north, south, and east by Ukraine. Most of its territory lies between the area's two main rivers, the Nistru and the Prut. The Nistru (Dnister, in Ukrainian; Dnestr in Russian) forms a small part of Moldova's border with Ukraine in the northeast, but it mainly flows through the eastern part of the country, separating Bessarabia and Transnistria. The Prut River forms Moldova's entire western boundary with Romania.
Most of Moldova's approximately 33,700 square kilometers of territory (about the size of Maryland) cover a hilly plain cut deeply by many streams and rivers. Geologically, Moldova lies primarily on deep sedimentary rock that gives way to harder crystalline outcroppings only in the north, where higher elevations are found on the margins of the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.
The gently rolling Balti Plain (Stepa Balti, in Romanian; Bel'tskaya ravnina, in Russian) in northern Moldova (lying at ninety to 600 meters in elevation in the north) gives way to thick, deciduous forests in the Codri Hills (Podisul Codrilor, in Romanian; Kodry, in Russian), averaging 350 to 400 meters in elevation, where the most common trees are hornbeam, oak, linden, maple, wild pear, and wild cherry. The country's highest point, Mount Balanesti (Balaneshty, in Russian), is located in the west central portion of the country and reaches 430 meters.
The Bugeac Plain (Budzhak, in Russian) in the south has numerous ravines and gullies. Transnistria has spurs of the Volyn-Podolian Upland (Podisul Podolie, in Romanian; VolynoPodil 's'ka vysochyna, in Ukrainian), which are cut into by tributaries of the Nistru River.
About 75 percent of Moldova is covered by a soil type called chernozem. In the northern highlands, more claytextured soils are found; in the south, red-earth soil is predominant. The soil becomes less fertile toward the south but can still support grape and sunflower production. The uplands have woodland soils, while southern Moldova is in the steppe zone, although most steppe areas today are cultivated. The lower reaches of the Prut River and the southern river valleys are saline marshes.
Drainage in Moldova is to the south, toward the Black Sea lowlands, and eventually into the Black Sea, but only eight rivers extend more than 100 kilometers. Moldova's main river, the Nistru, is navigable throughout almost the entire country, and in warmer winters it does not freeze over. The Prut River is a tributary of the Danube River, which it joins at the far southwestern tip of the country.
Moldova's climate is moderately continental: the summers are warm and long, with temperatures averaging about 20°C, and the winters are relatively mild and dry, with January temperatures averaging -4°C. Annual rainfall, which ranges from around 600 millimeters in the north to 400 millimeters in the south, can vary greatly; long dry spells are not unusual. The heaviest rainfall occurs in early summer and again in October; heavy showers and thunderstorms are common. Because of the irregular terrain, heavy summer rains often cause erosion and river silting.
Moldova's communist-era environmental legacy, like that of many other former Soviet republics, is one of environmental degradation. Agricultural practices such as overuse of pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers were intended to increase agricultural output at all costs, without regard for the consequences. As a result, Moldova's soil and groundwater were contaminated by lingering chemicals, some of which (including DDT) have been banned in the West.
Such practices continue in Moldova to the present day. In the early 1990s, per hectare use of pesticides in Moldova averaged approximately twenty times that of other former Soviet republics and Western nations. In addition, poor farming methods, such as destroying forests to plant vineyards, have contributed to the extensive soil erosion to which the country's rugged topography is already prone.
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